Live Culture Celebration

Learn about Fermentation Fest, an annual celebration of live culture in all of its many forms, and Farm/Art DTour, a biennial food, farm, and art road trip.

| Summer 2020

Photo by Todd Persche

I’m very curious by nature, and to my delight, I landed in the perfect spot last October when I headed out to Reedsburg, Wisconsin, for Fermentation Fest 2019. Nestled in a geological wonderland known as “the Driftless Area,” this festival showcases a unique agricultural region that produces a great deal of the nation’s organic produce and some of the United States’ finest dairy products. The event is produced by the Wormfarm Institute, a nonprofit founded by Jay Salinas and Donna Neuwirth that strives to activate links between art, culture, and agriculture; strengthen connections with urban neighbors; and grow possibilities for enhanced sustainability practices among businesses, farmers, consumers, and citizens. The festival is a live culture convergence that’s fully integrated into the tiny town, and spreads throughout the region with a companion, biennial event called Farm/Art DTour.

Photo by Jean Denny

Fermentation Fest focuses on expert demonstrations, hands-on learning, and guided tastings with over 40 different guest authors, chefs, scientists, and master artisans organized in the town’s many businesses and art galleries. Farm/Art DTour, on the other hand, hosts vendors, artists, food carts, performances, comfy campfires, and local beer. With 10 years of experience behind it, the two-weekend event each fall is worth a long road trip. I met food writers, chefs, several small-business owners, and epicurean wanderers from all over the globe.

My favorite event last year was a Wisconsin beer and cheese tasting hosted by Tenaya Darlington in her incarnation as Madame Fromage, and Hathaway Terry from Ale Asylum of Madison, Wisconsin. The lineup included six pairings, and lots of amazing flavors. Before we started, we learned how to taste cheese, and this amplified my enjoyment of the fare considerably. (For more on how to properly taste cheese, see “So You Want to Be a Curd Nerd?”) I loved the combination of Madtown Nutbrown ale with cave-aged Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar, which left my palate sated with buttery sweetness and lingering hints of wintergreen. Roth Buttermilk Blue was heavenly, creamy, and tart, and Oktillion Oktoberfest lager paired with Le Rouge alpine-style cheese from Master Cheesemaker Jon Metzig of Red Barn Family Farms was delicious. And then there was Sartori’s espresso-rubbed BellaVitano cheese paired with Velveteen Habit, an India pale ale. I’d gladly eat this for breakfast!

Photo by Aaron Dysart



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